Friday, July 22, 2011

"All shall love me and despair!" -- The Fellowship Revisited

I got to go out to Skywalker Ranch the other night to watch the newly digitally re-mastered extended cut  of Fellowship of the Ring. This is (sort of) in honor of the Blu-Ray release of the movies. It is, at least, because of the Blu-Ray release. Lord of the Rings was actually long enough ago, at this point, that the movie was filmed on, um, actual film. Being digitally re-mastered is part of the whole Blu-Ray process. Evidently, only a very small pool of people will get to see a theatrical release of the digital version, so I was very glad to get to be a part of that. Of course, The Two Towers and The Return of the King will follow over the next two weeks.

It's actually quite thrilling to see them on the big screen again. And Fellowship is my favorite of the three. In fact, and I know we're in the midst of gushing over Harry Potter at the moment, it may be the best film adaptation of a book ever (sorry, the adaptations of Mr. Potter were, on the whole, merely adequate). The same can't be said for the other two installments, but Fellowship is as close as I've seen with any movie for capturing the essence of the book it came from. [If we include comic books into the mix, I'd have to say that Spider-Man comes pretty darn close, too.]

See, the problem is they're so long. Okay, well, that's not the main problem; the main problem is that we've already seen them. Even though we own the extended cuts, it's hard to just sit down and watch them from beginning to ending without taking breaks. It's like that with, basically, any movie we've already seen, but it's worse with the LotR films. Because they're so long! They need to be long (I like that they're long), but, when you have three kids, no, wait, when you have my daughter, it's fairly impossible to do anything for even half that time without interruption. Last time we put Fellowship in, I think it took us about six hours to watch the whole thing. Six hours! It's really hard to stay immersed in the fantasy when you have to continually feed the human-sized hummingbird that keeps zipping in for food.

But at the theater... at the theater, you are forced to stay immersed. And, of course, my daughter wasn't there, so that made things a lot easier, too. And it was so good to flow back into Tolkien's world. I love the Shire in Fellowship. I don't know that there's anything Jackson could have done to make it more like the world I imagined from the book. And the fact that the stone trolls are there... And I could never believe they didn't include the gift giving scene in the theatrical version, so I love that part in the extended cut. Of course, the real triumph of the films is the casting. Those aren't actors; they are those characters. There is no Ian McKellen, only Gandalf.

I only have one issue with the film version of Fellowship: the Balrog. I can understand why they chose to use a large demon-like creature, and it is very impressive within the confines of the movie. However, the description in the book suggests more a creature of impression rather than substance. A creature of shadow and darkness and fire. And, yes, the Balrog in the movie is exactly that, but, still... Oh, and I'm always unhappy that Glamdring doesn't behave appropriately. Sting glows, yet Glamdring does not. For me, that's a huge oversight.

Seeing the movie, again, reminded me just how long it's been since my last reading of LotR. It's definitely time to do that again. As I've said before, I don't often re-read, but Tolkien is one of those exceptions to that, and it is time. The issue is that, now, I just want to toss aside the books I'm currently reading and pick up Fellowship. I won't do that, but I want to. It may be time for another reading of The Hobbit to my kids, too.


  1. I agree with that Fellowship is the best of the three films. We watched all three extended cuts here a few months ago over a weekend and loved them to death. I remember taking my son to see Fellowship at the theater and insisting that he wouldn't like it.

    It was the first movie I'd ever taken him too where he never even got up to go to the bathroom. I think he's seen it at least a dozen times since then. It's his Star Wars.

    As for the books. I did like them, alot. But I was never as big a fantasy fan as I was science fiction. I didn't read them until I was an adult. Still, I'll read them again someday. For me, the movies were just as powerful, I liked many of the choices they made concerning what to alter and what to cut. I didn't mind Elves at Helm's Deep, I didn't mind the missing Tom Bombadil, and I definitely didn't mind them taking place over a much shorter period of time than the books.

    It wasn't until after the movies I read The Silmarillion, that I got caught up in the lore. I think adapting the novels to movies was one of the most difficult, and successful, film making challenges I've seen.

  2. Great post, Andrew. The Hubby and I are HUGE Tolkien fans--both of the books and the films. Yes, Fellowship is the best. When Galadriel speaks in the beginning, to the black screen, chills race all over me. Every. Single. Time. I am so jealous you're getting to view them on the big screen again. And how great that you're thinking about reading The Hobbit to your children. This is literature at its best.

  3. It's really hard to stay immersed in the fantasy when you have to continually feed the human-sized hummingbird that keeps zipping in for food.

    OMG...I have her twin!

  4. Rusty: It disturbs me that Return of the King got the Oscar. Just because it shows how political the whole Oscar process is as opposed to being based on the merits of the work.

    I do actually mind the elves at Helm's Deep, but I'm sure I'll talk about that when I talk about Towers this week. And I miss Bombadil, but I understand why he's left out, so I can get over that.

    I've read The Silmarillion (twice) and some of the other material in teh volumes and volumes of unfinished work he had, but I finally gave up on ever gettig through all of that over a decade ago. I'm sure it had something to do with having kids.

    Alyssia: I'm thinking about reading The Hobbit to my kids -again-. Not only have I read it to them more than once, I've also read it at their school (well, until they stopped me because they said it was age inappropriate. What the heck? The kids were -very- upset that I didn't get to finish it).

    Kimberly: LOL Well, it's too bed we can't get them together and watch them buzz around. :)